The incredible diversity of our city means that virtually anything the heart desires — or the taste buds crave — is just a drive away. From the ubiquitous taco trucks of East Los Angeles to the crowded dine-ins of Koreatown, from soot-caked barbecue joints to pizzerias slinging pies of all thicknesses, from downtown Brazilian churrascarias to vegan cafes on Abbot Kinney Boulevard … there is truly something for every palate in the City of Angels.
UCLA itself is no slouch either, boasting the very best college dining experience in the nation, according to Niche magazine. To learn why, just take a look at the Spring 2023 UCLA Magazine feature on B Plate, which reimagined what a college dining hall could be.
But while appreciation for a good meal is a near-universal experience, there is much more to food than the pleasure of eating. The way we approach our food offers a glimpse into our culture and history, and it shows us what we value. How we eat reflects health and social disparities, as well as how we care for the planet and its resources. As the late food critic and legendary chronicler of L.A.’s culinary scene Jonathan Gold ’82 once wrote: “It turns out food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”
This issue of the magazine also looks at the new campus ecosystem the university has created to study food across its many dimensions. This includes our interactive and collaborative teaching kitchen — a space for mentoring campus community members in good nutrition and useful cooking techniques — as well as our broader UCLA Rothman Family Institute for Food Studies, established last spring with the goal of making UCLA a locus of inquiry into topics like food systems, food access, sustainable production and proper labeling and diet.
An even more recent research development related to food was the launch in February of the UCLA Goodman–Luskin Microbiome Center, backed by a $20 million gift from longtime campus supporters Andrea and Donald Goodman and Renee and Meyer Luskin. The center will look at how microbial organisms in the human gastrointestinal tract, often referred to as the gut, relate to body and brain health. What we choose to eat can have a profound effect on our gut microbiome, which in turn can have a profound effect on our immune response, ability to prevent disease and even tendency toward disorders like anxiety and depression. UCLA investigators are at the very forefront of research in this area, and I am extremely excited to see what they uncover.
UCLA’s approach to studying food exemplifies what a comprehensive public research university like ours can do so well: bring together students, scholars and practitioners from across disciplines to examine a topic from all angles, use it as a framework for expanding young minds, deepen society’s collective understanding of the issues at play and ultimately develop new ideas and solutions that contribute to the common good.
Read more from UCLA Magazine’s Spring 2023 issue.